Koch world is over Donald Trump. Americans for Prosperity Action, the group that spends millions on conservative candidates in American elections, backed by the billionaire Charles Koch, announced Sunday that it would take sides in the GOP presidential primary after sitting out the last few cycles—vowing to support a candidate who is not Trump.
“The best thing for the country would be to have a president in 2025 who represents a new chapter,” Emily Seidel, CEO of Americans for Prosperity and a senior adviser to AFP Action, the group’s chief political arm, wrote in a memo to the group’s staff and activists. She added: “AFP Action is prepared to support a candidate in the Republican presidential primary who can lead our country forward, and who can win.”
The memo doesn’t mention Trump by name, but it’s clear that the group does not see him as a winning candidate. According to the Washington Post, the group plans to back a single alternative to Trump by the end of the summer. After sitting out the last two Republican primaries, the entry of AFP Action—along with likely the rest of the network of groups and donors led by fossil fuel tycoon—represents perhaps the greatest indication yet of a strong, moneyed effort among some on the right to sideline Trump.
The Koch’s libertarian conservatism sometimes clashed with Trump’s nationalistic, anti-immigration brand. But the memo doesn’t discuss policy and instead focuses on the GOP’s poor track record in recent elections. Trump twice lost the popular vote. Then in the 2022 midterm elections, he frustrated the GOP by backing extreme candidates who went on to lose to Democrats in what was supposed to be a triumphant year for Republicans. Seidel’s memo specifically mentions frustration over “bad candidates.”
In addition to its money, AFP holds significant organizing infrastructure. On its website, AFP Action boasts placing 8.5 million telephone calls, knocking on 1.5 million doors, and sending 49 million pieces of mail in the 2020 election for hundreds of candidates. According to the Federal Election Commission, the group spent $47 million on the 2020 election and $69 million in 2022. That kind of financial support could make a big difference in a presidential primary and is likely to prompt several presidential hopefuls to pursue becoming the Koch-backed candidate. As candidates enter the race, they now won’t just be auditioning for the American people but also for the support of Koch-world.
Americans for Prosperity’s announcement comes after several wealthy GOP donors announced they would oppose Trump in 2024. What the Koch network’s support looks like during the primary season remains to be seen. But the announcement is an indication that Trump won’t just be battling rivals in the primary, but also some of his own party’s wealthiest donors and outside groups.